‘Black Life, Red Planet’ launches gum.mp3’s Afrofuturism into the cosmos

Strap yourself in for an interstellar romp through nebulous loops of hyper-kinetic drums and incantatory vocal samples.

Wayfaring DJ gum.mp3 is as much a student of music as academia, a highly prolific creator melding socially and politically conscious inquiries into mesmerizing creations. A graduate of NYU, where he studied studio art, he taught in K-12 classrooms, gave lectures at Georgetown University, and worked as a librarian—the culmination of which was the development of his online database Halcyon.ooo. With numerous albums under his belt, gum.mp3 has sought to reconcile the knowledge he absorbs with both his art and daily life. A desire spurred in no small part to the revival of the underground dance scene he has appeared at the center of—a pushback against the capitalistic influences that have taken over dance music spaces and a nightlife previously considered safe for Black and queer individuals. 

On Black Life, Red Planet—the latest offering from gum.mp3—terrestrial turmoil urges a philosophically sonic contemplation of the celestial. Like the multimedia talents and interests of its creator, the record’s thematic elements are informed by a constellation of research and retrospection. Two years in the making, Black Life, Red Planet began as a concept album titled To Mars, From My Apartment, with both its title and aesthetics drawing heavily from a 1985 installation by Ilya Kabakov called “The Man Who Flew Into Space from His Apartment.” Yet it was also informed by readings on Pan-African Social Ecology, deep dives into video essays on Hermeticism, and a desire to preserve cycles of musical history within his music.

If this is your first encounter with the turbulent electro-funk soundscapes that gum.mp3 has earned a reputation for conjuring—strap yourself in for an interstellar romp through nebulous loops of hyper-kinetic drums and incantatory vocal samples. Taking sonic inspiration from the drum and bass ambiance of A Guy Called Gerald’s monumental Black Secret Technology. The aptly titled “Spacey” launches you with its oscillating rhythm toward heady collisions like meteoric showers as the rest of the world, to the tune of radiant riffs, goes spinning by. “Compression,” co-produced with frequent collaborator dazegxd, pairs that frenetic percussiveness with a void of effervescent atmospherics.

Both exude the album’s fluid transcendence and sublime tension—a mood perfected amidst the mercurial wanderings of “Mars and Its Moons.” Joined by Harrison on keys and 48th Street on guitar, the track grows out of a gloaming veil of instrumentals made all the more ethereal by the ululations that echo in earnestness behind them. Similarly, “Believe” (feat. swoozydolphin) voices the urgent focus on acts of worship that simmer throughout Black Life, Red Planet. As gum.mp3 guides you through orbit—a journey that takes a stunningly dynamic turn on “Deimos,” where spiraling house anthemics give way to luxuriant keys illustrating the ominous majesty of the Mars satellites—he focuses his rhapsody on the planet with thoughtful intent.

Across the record, gum.mp3 coalesces a compelling revision of his distinctly Afrofuturist vision that side-steps the pitfalls of off-world escapism in favor of a personal meditation. Zeroing in on a childhood reverence for the rust-hued planet its title alludes to in the process. “Knowingness” bends those intentions with bluesy guitar warbles and smokey affirmations of emotional insight, while the far more concussive “Blue Period,” still scintillating with keys, envelops you in the mystic wonder of its sampled wails.

Black Life, Red Planet ends with “Colors,” an ecstatically trudging dance piece that fuses gum.mp3’s sprawling electronica tastes into a thrumming, self-propelling cosmic banger. The track speaks to the exigent and soulful need to incept a new but no less captivating mythos for the planet that floats—locked by forces as potent as gravity—in the mind’s eye of the album’s author. As you start to vaporize to the beat of its light speed locomotion, resounding with words invoking Mother Nature, you arrive at what can only be described as its paradoxical destination. Not a temporal place but rather a purposeful flux. A willful and daring rumination of spirituality through the spherical lens of celestial bodies—perpetually daunting and transfixing to all who look up in awe.

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